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Dr. Matt Might help: Dissertation tips

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The illustrated guide to a Ph.D. Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge: By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little: By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more: With a bachelor's degree, you gain a specialty: A master's degree deepens that specialty:

The illustrated guide to a Ph.D.

Books and papers every graduate student should read. Jump to For grad students in any field Resources for writing.

Books and papers every graduate student should read

Productivity hints, tips, hacks and tricks for graduate students and professors. Contents Jump to: My philosophy: Optimize transaction costs Distilled into empirically-wrought principles, my high-level advice is: Reduce transaction costs to engaging in productive behavior.

Productivity hints, tips, hacks and tricks for graduate students and professors

Erect transaction costs to engaging in counter-productive behavior. In short, mold your life so that the path of least resistance is the path of maximum productivity. People are surprised when I tell them I'm lazy. I don't try to change the fact that I'm lazy: I exploit it. I try to make sure that the laziest thing I can do at any moment is what I should be doing.

Update: Managing willpower Years after I wrote the first version of this article, I discovered a book that provided a basis for my philosophy in sound psychological science, Willpower The book surveys the literature on the science of self control. Deliberating shaping the past of least resistance optimizes the use of willpower. Anecdote: Pull-ups to the door outside our bedroom. 3 shell scripts: Kill weasel words, avoid the passive, eliminate duplicates. More resources There are four books at arm's length in my office: Strunk and White's The Elements of Style is still a good, if not perfect, reference on style.

3 shell scripts: Kill weasel words, avoid the passive, eliminate duplicates

Young writers should calibrate their reading of Elements in light of criticism from linguistic experts. Experts claim that the good parts of Strunk and White are common sense. 10 tips on how to give an academic talk. The biggest mistake academics make is misjudging their audience.

10 tips on how to give an academic talk

I've been to (many) talks where the talk itself was presented to one or two people in a room of hundreds. (Disclaimer: I've given my fair share of these talks too.) When preparing a talk, glance at the program for the event, or ask your host what you should expect of the audience in terms of background knowledge. Aim appropriately. When we speak on favored topics, our instinct is to gloss over concepts and details that once took us the better part of grad school to understand.

It feels awkward, or even insulting, to recap "introductory" material. There's also a negative feedback mechanism in academic culture. When you present to a broader audience, experts in your own specialty will claim to be annoyed and chastise you in public Q & A to stroke their egos. Don't listen to them. Always ask: What needs to be understood to convey the big idea? Practice. Electric meat. Don't touch the electric meat Some time ago, a primatologist ran an experiment with chimpanzees.

Electric meat

The experiment involved a hanging pallet of meat that, when touched, sent an electric shock througout the entire chimp cage. At first, the chimps responded with bewilderment every time one of them grabbed the meat and the shock rippled through the cage. Eventually, the chimps realized that the shocks came from the meat. The chimps began to attack and beat, savagely even, any chimp that approached the meat, and over time, fewer beatings were necessary. How to peer review scientfic work. Avoid decision fatigue I've written a few hundred peer reviews.

How to peer review scientfic work

The dominant factor in whether I wrote a high- or low-quality review was decision fatigue. Decision fatigue impacts far more than peer review. As humans, we make decisions all day long. Each decision draws from a finite (but replenishable) cognitive resource. A Ph.D. thesis proposal is a contract. Thesis statement A thesis is a single sentence.

A Ph.D. thesis proposal is a contract

More precisely, it is an active, declarative, defensible sentence. 10 reasons Ph.D. students fail. Focus on grades or coursework No one cares about grades in grad school.

10 reasons Ph.D. students fail

There's a simple formula for the optimal GPA in grad school: 3 qualities of successful Ph.D. students: Perseverance, tenacity and cogency. What doesn't matter There's a ruinous misconception that a Ph.D. must be smart.

3 qualities of successful Ph.D. students: Perseverance, tenacity and cogency

This can't be true. A smart person would know better than to get a Ph.D. "Smart" qualities like brilliance and quick-thinking are irrelevant in Ph.D. school. Students that have made it through so far on brilliance and quick-thinking alone wash out of Ph.D. programs with nagging predictability. Academic martial arts: Defending your Ph.D. A good thesis proposal A proper defense begins at the thesis proposal. A good thesis proposal makes a subsequent defense significantly easier. A poor thesis proposal delays graduation and reduces the odds of success. A good proposal forms a contract between student and committee: If I do X, Y and Z, you agree that this constitutes a Ph.D. Asking for a letter of recommendation. Classroom Fortress: The Nine Kinds of Students. The Soldier Quiet, obedient and consistent, the Soldier charges into every assignment and stops only once enough damage is done to get the desired grade. Meeting notes: Small thoughts on large cohorts. Pull-based research The pull-based cohort model is researcher-centric. The researcher designs the study. Obtaining LaTeX. LaTeX for the impatient Linux Your system distribution or vendor has probably provided a TeX system including LaTeX.